One of the few humorous elements of the whole Atlantic Yards disaster is that the Brooklyn Papers – the only New York media outlet to focus constantly and constructively on Bruce Ratner’s plan to ruin our neighborhood – registered the www.forestcityratner.com domain. Type in that address and you’ll arrive at the paper’s coverage on what they call Not Just Nets. One more click will take you to this new editorial by the paper’s publisher, Ed Weintraub, entitled It’s all about money.
Whether Bruce Ratner gets to build his Atlantic Yards mega-project rests not on any eminent domain decision (he already owns much of the private property on the site) but on government’s willingness to put our treasuries at the developer’s disposal.
Undoubtedly, some of Ratner’s acquisitions were at least facilitiated by the threat of eminent domain — property owners knew that if they did not negotiate a settlement early, their property might be taken later under less advantageous circumstances. But at this point, for Atlantic Yards, eminent domain is not the issue.
The issue is that taxpayers are being asked to pay for Ratner’s game.
An honest discussion will put the public price tag at $1 billion or more, not $100 million (a token down payment referenced by the Manhattan news media). Tax breaks associated with the New Jersey Nets component of the project — a very small part of the overall plan — alone amount to $300 million; the gifting of the MTA’s rail yards (yes, they will be “sold” — but in an essentially non-competitive 11th-hour bidding process); hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure costs (some will be masked as railroad improvements if the MTA moves its tracks to make way for an arena) — incredibly lavish subsidies to pay Ratner for the so-called “affordable” housing component of his project (no, Ratner is not paying for the “affordable” housing — you are), and more, lots more — all amount to virtually a blank check.
Forest City’s Ratner’s own actual website is www.forestcity.net/. I spent thirty minutes searching through it yesterday and could not find the company’s proposed designs for Atlantic Yards anywhere on the site. How’s that for transparency?